Inmates at the Isle of Man Prison have enjoyed another successful year exhibiting in local shows, winning numerous accolades for their produce and cookery entries.
Prisoners have also put their baking skills to good use in recent months to help raise hundreds of pounds for Island cancer charities through cake sales.
Entries from the prison have become a familiar sight at horticultural shows around the Isle of Man over the past few years. And the high standard has been reflected in the number of prizes won, with five main trophies and 89 awards secured at events held this summer and autumn.
Exhibits in the horticultural classes along with the chutneys, pickles, jams and cakes are prepared using home-grown vegetables and fruit from the prison polytunnels.
The polytunnels were introduced in 2010 with the assistance of environmental charity Zero Waste Mann and now provide more than two tonnes of produce each year.
The range of vegetables and fruit grown includes potatoes, leeks, garlic, onions, spinach, lettuce, courgettes, beetroot, broad beans, rhubarb, tomatoes, shallots, carrots and cabbage.
Prisoners help to prepare the beds for planting, sow the seeds and tend the plots before harvesting the results of their labours.
The success of the polytunnels ensures a steady supply of fresh fruit and veg for the prison kitchens, which helps to contain costs by reducing the need to buy in food. Other items are used in education classes, auctioned off in mhelliahs or donated to charity.
Michael Coleman MLC, member of the Department of Home Affairs with responsibility for the Prison and Probation Service, said: ‘The quality of the fruit and vegetables produced at Jurby is excellent and the prisoners take great pride in their work.’
He added: ‘As well as producing cost savings and helping the prison to become part of the community by taking part in district shows, there are many other knock-on benefits to this project. Working in the gardens keeps prisoners occupied in a meaningful way and they learn how to cook nutritional meals on a budget and how to preserve food. There is also an opportunity to work towards a diploma in horticulture. Acquiring such skills is a small but important part of the Criminal Justice Strategy’s focus on helping prisoners resettle and become productive members of the community on completion of their sentences.’
Island charities have also reaped the rewards of the prisoners’ efforts. Individuals attending cookery classes baked cakes for a Breakthrough Breast Cancer coffee morning, which raised £2,445, while a fundraising event at the prison generated £101 for Macmillan Cancer Support.